Tag Archives: epp

77: Fabric

Well, with all the laser cutting of paper templates, buttons and fussy cutters lately, you knew we had to get around to laser cutting fabric eventually.  And it went smashingly.

EPP in the making
EPP in the making
Pile o' Diamonds, which took less than 2 minutes to cut.
Pile o’ Diamonds, which took less than 2 minutes to cut.

Because I don’t have a sewing machine, I decided to make 1″ EPP diamonds.  I can sew these by hand, and I need them for a gift I’m working on.  Rebecca of Hugs are Fun, a much more experienced sewer with a machine, sent along a pattern for a coffee cozy designed by Skip to My Lou.

Cozy in the laser
Cozy in the laser
17 second cut
17 second cut, for both

If you thought cutting paper was nice, cutting fabric is even easier!  Cutting fabric made me remember how amazing this machine from the future really is.  We cut 2 large side panels for a purse (which Rebecca is still working on) in 17 seconds.  Sixty 1″diamonds with .375″ outline took less than 2 minutes.  And the results were perfect.  If you’ve ever cut fabric with a scissors, you understand the awe.  Even rotary cutters, which speeds up cutting tremendously, don’t compare.

Because I seem to work better in lists, here’s what I learned fabric cutting:

– Like paper, cuts are quick and low power.

– The burn of the laser finishes the edges crisply.  No fuzzies, no immediate fraying.

Look at those edges!
Look at those edges!

– There is less worry about it moving around.  The gentle suck of our honeycomb downdraft table was enough to keep the fabric firmly in place.  The pull was strong enough to hold 4 layers of cotton fabric in place to cut at the same time.

These burn / cuts are unintended.
These burn / cuts are unintended.

– I did have a fabric fly up when working with a tall piece (cutting vertically on the bed) vs wide piece (horizontally).  The exhaust goes bottom to top, so it may have been more susceptible to the breeze.  We lessened this by half closing the exhaust gate.

– There was zero difference in sewing up laser cut fabric vs. hand cut.  Except everything lined up perfectly because the lines were perfect.

My diamonds in a partially finished project:

super secret project :)
super secret project 🙂

Rebecca’s perfectly finished coffee cozy, using the anchor button from Week 71!

So cute!
So cute!

Fabric again (2 of 2)

68: Fussy Cut Templates

So, during Week 66, I made a disclaimer that the post wasn’t really about English Paper Piecing, but rather a platform to talk about how to laser cut paper. This week is about cutting and piecing together fabric – consider yourself forewarned!

To “fussy cut” a piece of fabric is to take great care in cutting the piece needed from  a specific area of the fabric.  You can do this to highlight a specific figure or artistic part of the fabric, but I most often see it used with English Paper Piecing to create a unique kaleidoscope effect with repeats of the same segment of fabric.

Here's my version - my first fussy cut bloom!  The 6 jewels with the same pattern are sewn points in to make this star, which has a kaleidoscope kind of feel to it.
Here’s my version – my first fussy cut star or flower! I used the jewel shape from Week 66 with the same pattern sewn points in to make this shape.  I like how the grey lines make a secondary, off kilter tar in the piece.
Step 1 for testing my aligning and sewing skills - cutting 6 of the same pattern segment in the jewel shape!
Step 1 for testing my aligning and sewing skills – cutting 6 of the same pattern segment in the jewel shape!
Six perfectly aligned jewel shapes!  Aren't they cute?
Six perfectly aligned jewel shapes! Aren’t they cute?

It’s easier to fussy cut, of course, when you can see what you want to cut.  This is where acrylic templates come in.  You can align your fabric under them template, and then use the outside lines as cut guides to trace or use a rotary cutter on.  There are many fussy cut templates commercially available, but they re overwhelmingly squares or hexagons (which, by all rights, are very popular shapes in quilting).  I couldn’t find a jewel shaped or octagonal template anywhere!

To get the outlines for the templates, I used the same vector lines I created for the  paper templates in Week 66 and added a 3/8″ (.375″) border for the fabric that needs to fold over the paper edges and get tacked together to make the final shape. With good advice from Ryan, I figured out the easiest way to do this is add a .375″ outside stroke to the piece, then hit “expand appearance.”  Then you get two lines: your original, and another the perfect distance away.

I used the expanded shapes to create two different kinds of templates, to see which I liked better.  I actually did find advantages and disadvantages to both types, and often swapped back and forth!

Template style 1 is on the right, style 2 is on the left!
Template style 1 is on the right, style 2 is on the left!
Cute framed Mermaid!
Cute framed Mermaid!

Template 1: Created with 1/8″ clear acrylic.  It’s a solid piece, with a deep vector line showing the dimensions of your finished EPP.

Pros:

  • Because of the full coverage, it flattened slightly wrinkly fabric in the center as well as around the edges.  
  • Smoothly ran across the fabric when I was looking for the perfect cut
  • The clear acrylic allowed me to see the edges of what I was cutting as well as the desired image.  Fussy cutting can waste a lot of fabric, and sometimes the perfect images is closer the 3/8″ from the edge.  3/8″ is pretty generous, and in dire need, you can short it a little.  Visually deciding what was enough to sew helped me waste less fabric!
  • Some artists actually use the acrylic to trace the outline of the desired image in the center with a removable marker, allowing them more reference points to align to for even more perfect fussy cuts!
  • Easier to put the 52 Lasers logo on it (which of course has nothing to do with functionality!)

Cons:

  • Clear edges could be a little distracting, especially with busy or loud patterns
  • Easy to lose!  It’s clear so it blends in with everything.
The template frames the spider cross stitch done by Rebecca of Hugs are Fun perfectly!
The template frames the spider cross stitch done by Rebecca of Hugs are Fun perfectly!

Template 2: Created with 1/8″ opaque white acrylic, and is just the area encompassed by the stroke.  The center is cut out, like a low-tech view finder.

Pros:

  • Smoothly ran across the fabric when I was looking for the perfect cut
  • I preferred the opaque edges when finding the perfect cuts – it separated out the noise of the full fabric

Cons:

  • You couldn’t see the edges, and a couple times I got too close to a hole or wayward rotary cut for my fussy cut to work.

The full clear template is probably more versatile, and I would probably like it better with frosted or tinted edges – enough to still see though, but to set it off from the rest of the fabric better.  You wouldn’t believe how many times I simply set it down and lost it. I found I used the different template types in tandem, specially when I was trying to utilize every scrap.  I could see if a given space would fit two shapes or only one!

The laser is a versatile tool – you can make any shape template imaginable!  This really helps with the new EPP books that are breaking away from the hexagon stereotype, like the eagerly anticipated All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing beyond the Hexagon by Diane Gilleland, coming out in May! (Not an affiliate link, I just think the sneak peek looks great!)

Thanks again to Rebecca at Hugs are Fun for letting me raid her stash.  Of course, it’s her fault I’ve wandered down this EPP path in the first place! 🙂

This photo is very badly posed, as I was trying to photograph with my left and hold the rotary blade with my right.  Rotary blades are dangerous, kids, don't try this at home.

This photo is very badly posed, as I was trying to photograph with my left and hold the rotary blade with my right. Rotary blades are dangerous, kids, don’t try this at home.

cut-octagons

Clear 2 inch diamond template
Clear 2 inch diamond template

Edited 6/14/2015 – you can now find them in my supply shop, Beadeux, along with other laser cut goodies!